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My Sister, the Serial Killer by Oyinkan Braithwaite – a review

sister

My latest read has been My Sister, The Serial Killer. No this is is not autobiographical (Well as far as I know, bearing in mind the Sister lives with our parent’s and they are both very much alive and fighting fit so I assume if she had murderous tendencies the patio area might have been much extended by now!)
My Sister the Serial Killer is actually the debut novel by Oyinkan Braithwaite. Set in Nigeria, it tells the story of Korede, the elder sister of Ayoola. The sisters are very close. So much so that Ayoola can ring Korede any time of the day or night knowing that she will drop everything to help her. Even when that help involves bleach, rubber gloves and the ability to move a body, for the third time.
I picked this novel up on a whim whilst browsing Waterstones, at the time I hadn’t realised that Oyinkan was appearing at the Theakstons Old Peculier Crime Writing Festival next weekend. Well once I started reading I couldn’t stop and I read this pretty much over two nights.
My Sister, the Serial Killer was a really engaging novel. This wasn’t a long book, and had it been formatted like a normal book I imagine it would have been very small but that was part of the charm. It felt like quite a simple story, yet for some reason it is one that really gets under your skin. It is a slow story that is hard to explain, as it feels like nothing happens, yet it also includes murder galore.
The sisters are two very different people. One is glamourous and exciting, the other is rather dowdy and dull yet they are bound together by a bond that only siblings will understand. I found the interaction between the two sisters interesting. There were moments where you just want to give Korede a good talking too and make her stop enabling her sister’s murderous ways. Yet equally you feel for her as she is trying to make the best of a situation that she didn’t create but is stuck in. This is mainly a story about relationships rather than murder. The writing is full of short quick sentences and the rather macabre topic is lifted by the deadpan humour of Korede.
I would highly recommend My Sister, the Serial Killer for a quick engaging read and I am very much looking forward to hearing Oyinkan speak next week.

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A Good Enough Mother by Bev Thomas – BLOG TOUR

I was delighted to be invited onto the blog tour for author Bev Thomas’s debut novel A Good Enough Mother.
A Good Enough Mother follows Ruth Hartland, the Director of a trauma therapy unit in London. She is well respected psychotherapist with a fantastic career, yet her personal life is in bits. Tom her seventeen year old son has been missing for two years and has had no contact with anyone, her marriage has crumbled, and she has a difficult relationship with her daughter Tom’s twin sister. When a disturbed patient is referred she is shocked by the fact that Dan looks exactly like her missing son, and things soon start to spiral out of control as her professional boundaries start to blur.
This is a story of families told from the perspective of a mother dealing with both grief and guilt about her own part in the breakdown of the family. It was a gripping tale that I found fascinating. The author was a trained clinical psychologist and that comes across in the writing. As well as learning about Dan we also find out about other patients, they are background characters but give us a great insight into how Ruth usually works to contrast with her relationship with Dan.
This isn’t necessarily an easy read as it is emotional and sad. The quality of the writing draws you in as it weaves through to its inevitable car crash which I found quite shocking. The character of Ruth is intriguing. For someone who is supposedly at the top of the tree in her career she certainly makes some annoying mistakes, yet that is partly a consequence of her emotional state.
A Good Enough Mother is part mystery and part emotional drama both of which are utterly compelling. I would highly recommend this debut novel.

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Keep Her Close by MJ Ford – a review BLOG TOUR

Keep Her Close by MJ Ford is a police procedural set in Oxford. It opens with DS Josie Masters in therapy as she tries to come to turns with the horrific events of her past. When a young girl goes missing from Jesus College swiftly followed by two more, it soon becomes clear that this case is personal. As Josie hunts for the kidnapper she is also struggling to move on from her past with a new relationship she is in danger of ruining with her paranoia, unless of course her paranoia turns out to have a basis.

Clearly Keep Her Close is the follow up to MJ Ford’s debut novel Hold My Hand which sadly I hadn’t read, and although this does work as a standalone I wish I’d read that first as it sounds great. Saying that I did enjoy Keep Her Close. The character of Josie is the usual mess of clever detective and dysfunctional social skills which work together to make her a very interesting protagonist. The story itself I thought took a little bit to get going which I suspect was down to the amount of background needed to fill us in with her past, but once some connections had been made between the girls it really picked up.

I have to say I had my suspicions about who was to blame all along but I did keep changing my mind throughout which is the sign of a good storyteller that can throw in enough red herrings to make you doubt yourself. Once the final chapters revealed it I could have kicked myself for not sticking with my original assumptions.

Overall I enjoyed Keep her Close, it was a good story and I will definitely keep a look out for more about Detective Josie Masters.

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Clarissa’s Warning by Isobel Blackthorn – a review

As regular readers will know I’m not normally a fan of a supernatural novel, preferring a sensible conclusion to my mysteries. However I don’t mind a ghost story, if it’s clearly labelled as such therefore when I received an email from the lovely Rachel I was intrigued.

Clarissa’s Warning begins with lottery winner Claire travelling to Fuerteventura  where she has bought a run-down old house that she wants to restore to its former beauty. Despite the warnings from her psychic Aunt Clarissa that someone is going to harm her, she refuses to be persuaded against her dream. However when Clarissa arrives she soon realises that things are not all what they seem. She begins to doubt herself, especially when not only are local builders refusing to work on the project but weird and scary things start happening around the site. Claire befriends the local café owner and is determined to complete her project despite there clearly being someone or something wanting to stop her.

This was a fun and easy read. It’s not particularly a scary book, and there is nothing that will make you jump. However there is an underlying menace throughout the story that gradually builds up as the tale progresses and Claire becomes in more and more danger.  Whilst the characters themselves are not that memorable if I’m honest, I did enjoy reading about them and I liked Claire’s interaction with some of the local people and the builders. You got a sense of how isolating it would be to move to a strange country all on your own and try to complete a project like this.

Within the novel I especially liked the way the story mixed up descriptions of the island with some history and some supernatural events yet kept things grounded with the detailed paragraphs about the restoration work. By the end you felt as invested in wanting it all to work as Claire did.

All in all this was an easy and enjoyable story that almost needs a category of its own of ‘Cosy Ghost Stories to read by the fire on a cold winters night’ Even if the story doesn’t make you jump the descriptions of the Island will certainly warm you up!

Purchase Link – viewbook.at/ClarissaWarning

Author Bio –  Isobel Blackthorn is a prolific novelist of brilliant, original fiction across a range of genres, including dark psychological thrillers, gripping mystery novels, captivating travel fiction, and hilarious dark satire. Isobel holds a PhD in Western Esotericism and carries a lifelong passion for the Canary Islands, Spain. A Londoner originally, Isobel currently lives near Melbourne, Australia, with her little white cat.

Social Media Links – https://www.facebook.com/Lovesick.Isobel.Blackthorn/

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/5768657.Isobel_Blackthorn

@IBlackthorn

 

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The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste – a review

I am lucky enough to read many debut novelists which means I often get hooked on a series from the beginning. However the downside of having so many debut authors to read of course, is that it sometimes means that an authors later novels get pushed down the ever increasing ‘want to read’ pile in favour of debuts. This is what happened with Luca Veste. I read both the first two in the excellent Murphy and Rossi series and I have book three ‘Bloodstream’ and four ‘Then She Was Gone’ on the pile. Therefore when I realised that the new one by Luca Veste was available on netgalley and was a standalone story I jumped at the chance to read it.

luca vesteThe Bone Keeper starts with 4 children playing in the woods talking about the local mythical killer – ‘The Bone Keeper’ . The Bone Keeper steals children, slices them up and as you can probably guess, hangs onto the bones. The 4 children dare each other to walk through the tunnel where the Bone Keeper lives but only three of them come out the other side. Forward twenty years and a woman is found wandering round the streets covered in slash marks and saying that the bone keeper did it. DC Louise Henderson starts to investigate whilst dealing with her own issues and trying not to let herself believe that the Bone Keeper might actually be real.

This was a superb book that kept me absolutely engrossed on a recent trip up to Edinburgh. Everyone can recall stories from when they were young of the bogeyman in the woods, with every different place having a slight twist in the tale meaning they all have some personal connection. Therefore a tale about one of these stories coming to life is always going to be a page turner.

The Bone Keeper is set in Liverpool and this is a place that is as much a part of the book as the story itself. I can’t say I was particularly fond of the central character Louise, in fact I found her rather insipid, with very little that actually made me care about her at all. I did however like her partner Shipley, and the way the characters interacted.  However the story is the element that really makes this novel stand out. In parts this crossed to being more of a horror story rather than a simple crime story which I really enjoyed. It takes real skill to write a novel that can scare whilst being realistic.

Whilst for fans of the Murphy and Rossi series this is a bit of a departure I would definitely recommend it if you like fiction that scares.

The Bone Keeper by Luca Veste is available on amazon

 

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The Man With No Face by Peter May – BLOG TOUR

isbn9781787472617I originally found Peter May as part of my TOPCWFC which you may recall was the original aim of this blog. His first novel for me was The Blackhouse, which is part of a trilogy set on the Isle of Lewis. This was an interesting novel and I went on to read the rest of the trilogy. Last year I was also privileged to be able to read I’ll Keep You Safe which was a cracking read (see review here)  However one of the downsides to there being so many great new books coming out all the time is that if you are anything like me you often don’t get the time to go back and read an author’s early works. Therefore I was excited to be given the chance to read Peter May’s latest novel The Man With No Face which is actually a re-issue of one of his early books, Hidden Faces.

The Man With No Face is set in 1970’s Brussels at the time when Britain had just committed itself to the new Europe. (You can see why this has been re-released now!) The story follows Scottish journalist Bannerman who is sent to Brussels to report on the European Union. However when he arrives in Brussels both the journalist he was meant to be staying with and a high ranking politician have been murdered. The only witness is the autistic daughter of the victim who communicates through drawings. She draws the crime scene and includes everything except the killers face. Bannerman soon starts to build a relationship with the girl as he is determined to track down the truth, whilst racing to protect the witness from a killer who doesn’t want her to finish her drawing.

I am a big fan of this author. His writing is flawless and it drags you into the story from the start. As with all of Peter May’s novels one of the standout things for me is how the settings always play as big a part as any characters. A lot of that is down to the amount of research he undertakes. The Man With No Face is no exception. May was working as a journalist himself when this was originally written, writing for The Scotsman reporting on the political and social upheaval of the time. In the late 1970’s Peter made the journey by train from Glasgow to Brussels which whilst financial necessity at the time, was perfect research for how to transport murder weapons!peter author photo 2017

The Man With No Face is a crime thriller that seems as relevant today as it was then and is a definite must read for anyone who likes their mysteries with a political backdrop and a hard hitting theme.

The Man With No Face is out on the 10th January 2019 from amazon.

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The Judas Tree by Susan Bacoyanis – Extract BLOG TOUR

Today I am delighted to share with you the opening extract of the latest novel by Susan Bacoyanis. The Judas Tree is an intriguing tale of a woman scorned who takes her revenge to scary new heights. When Mary moves to a small village she is hoping to put her ex husband and the bitter divorce behind her. When she befriends Jonas it seems that she is finally moving on, however it soon turns out that he isn’t the person she thought he was, and Mary is clearly not the quiet divorcee she at first seems.

This is an interesting tale that cleverly intersperses historical facts about Mary Tudor with the story of Mary Webster. If you like a tale with a serious amount of revenge then this is definitely the story for you. Read on for the opening chapter.

PART ONE: MARY, MARY, QUITE CONTRARY

A story of betrayal

Oh! What a tangled web we weave,
When first we practise to deceive
Sir Walter Scott

Why do people lie? To gain attention? To elevate their status, or reinvent themselves? Is it perhaps the need to control? To instill fear, exercise power or cultivate friendship and love?
People who lie are the ordinary, uninspired immature adults who were ignored as children. Whose siblings stole their parents’ affection. Who underachieved in school, were patronised, humiliated and scolded more than praised. These emotionally crippled beings continuously seek attention to distract from their self-disgust, which allows no liberty in their skin.
We honest people are the unsuspecting audience, naively watching their performance… captivated by their practised script. We listen to their stories, their memories, their family history recited with affectionate anecdotes. We perceive them as gentle and kind, with values that are admirable. We hang on every syllable, listening in earnest as they boost their ego at our expense and with glazed eyes, we reflect an image of love, which they have cultivated. It is undeserving. It is a lie.
To be undetected, successful liars must be clever, cunning and well practised in their art. But most of all… they must possess a good memory.

The Letter

Dear Frances,
You will be surprised to learn that I’ve written a book. I realise that I’m a mere novice compared with you – the famous author. So it’s with some trepidation that I’m sending you my manuscript for review.
It’s an account of a macabre episode in my life… and I warn you, it will be emotionally challenging as the raw facts I lay before you will chill you to the bone.
*
I sign the email ‘With love’, as siblings do, although I know I don’t feel it. There is a bond between us, but it is rivalry on my part.
I attach the manuscript and label it ‘For your eyes only’ and press ‘Send’. Fate will be the decider now, for there’s a chance that when she reads it I could be either incarcerated or dead.

To find out what others thought of The Judas Tree visit the other stops on the blog tour. The Judas Tree is available on amazon.

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